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Athletics East qualifies nine for regionals

Team puts in solid work at Saturday’s state meet

Athletics East runners competed at the Oregon USATF Oregon Association Junior Olympic State Championships this past Saturday at Corbin University in Salem, and had nine runners qualify for Saturday’s regional meet at Woodland Zoo Park in Seattle. In the girls’ photo on the left are, from left to right, Chloe Cook, Jordyn Murphy, Emily Johnson and Kallyn Wilkins. Pictured at right are: Michael Lantz, left, Sam Alvarez and Dillon Dorado. All seven runners in the photos punched their regionals ticket, with Alvarez and Lantz going 1-2 in the 15-to-18-year old boys’ 5k race.

Contributed photos/Angela Hanson
Athletics East runners competed at the Oregon USATF Oregon Association Junior Olympic State Championships this past Saturday at Corbin University in Salem, and had nine runners qualify for Saturday’s regional meet at Woodland Zoo Park in Seattle. In the girls’ photo on the left are, from left to right, Chloe Cook, Jordyn Murphy, Emily Johnson and Kallyn Wilkins. Pictured at right are: Michael Lantz, left, Sam Alvarez and Dillon Dorado. All seven runners in the photos punched their regionals ticket, with Alvarez and Lantz going 1-2 in the 15-to-18-year old boys’ 5k race.



For their first cross country race off the fall campaign, runners from the Athletics East Running Club rose to the challenge at the Oregon USATF Oregon Association Junior Olympic State Championships this past Saturday on the campus of Corbin University in Salem.

The team, which is comprised of harriers from Hermiston, Condon, Heppner and The Dalles, competed against 13 other teams and 438 competitors and had nine of the 12 participants run qualifying times to punch their tickets for Saturday’s regional event slated for this Saturday at Woodland Zoo Park in Seattle.

“Everyone ran very well on a tough course,” parent volunteer Angela Hanson said.

“These kids continue to practice as a team, and work hard as a team, really building a community bond. Each and every one of them works hard, even through the extended cross country season.”

In each race, the top-30 placers earned the right to move on, led by the 13-and-14-year old girls’ group of Jordyn Murphy (Hermiston), Chloe Cook (The Dalles), Kallyn Wilkins (Condon) and Emily Johnson (The Dalles), who each put up qualifying times.

Murphy had the best 4k finish of that quartet, finishing with a time of 17 minutes and 45.08 seconds for 12th place.

Chloe Cook added a 18:00.91 to claim at 18th, Wilkins wound up 23rd after her 18:33.17, and placing 30th in the field was Johnson with a 19:28.70.

The boys’ 15-to-18-year old group of Sam Alvarez, Michael Lantz and Dillon Dorado, all of The Dalles, hit their marks in the 5k run, as The Dalles’ Sam Alvarez secured top honors with a final tally of 17:13.26.

Lantz ended up right behind Alvarez in second place with a 17:49.29, and Dorado added an 18:42.83 to secure fourth place.

In the 11-to-12 girls’ 3k cross country race, Riley Parker (The Dalles) hustled home for a 13:26.22, grabbing 27th place and a regional spot, and Caitlin Frakes (The Dalles) just missed the cut after her mark of 13:59.08.

In the boys’ 13-to-14 3k race, Angel Oregon (The Dalles) churned out a 17:51.47 and John Cole (The Dalles) tacked on a 19:43.19, to get edged out for next week’s meet.

The lone Athletics East competitor signed up for the 15-to-18 5k girls’ race, Madelyn Nichols, of Heppner, locked down fourth-place honors, following an impressive 25:24.30.

Athletics East is comprised of kids in the smaller rural areas of eastern Oregon and small parts of Washington and was started in the late 1980s by Greg Gustafson and then was reorganized by Heather Fitz-Gustafson and Russ Nichols in 2015.

The long-term goal of the program is to use this platform and exposure as a vehicle to give Eastern Oregon runners a chance to continue racing against tough competition during the offseason, with a plan to build elite youth track and field and cross country teams.

With a good crop of runners, there had been issues in the past trying find a team to run with, so by combining all the kids from the Greater Columbia River Gorge, they have a group to compete with the best athletes and programs from across the Pacific Northwest.

Having nine dedicated athletes qualify for regionals and a large group of 12 signed up this fall and winter, Athletics East coach Russ Nichols is seeing that initial master plan starting to bear fruit.

“The kids have been working hard and putting in a lot of effort, which is often difficult at the end of a long cross country season,” coach Nichols said.

“They are a very dedicated bunch of runners that really enjoy the sport and the team aspect of Athletics East Running Club.”

Fitz-Gustafson extended an open invitation for athletes to join Athletics East for the track and field slate next summer.

For additional information about the running program or to sign up and participate, email the coach at heather@loansinthegorge.com.



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